Soccer has been an important part of the Cockburn district for over a hundred years. Though the first official soccer matches were played in Perth in 1896, it wasn’t until 1914 that the game reached Cockburn, with Spearwood
all forming teams in that year, playing each other and visiting teams from places like Fremantle, Beaconsfield, and Perth.
Like many other small districts these 1914 teams were never official, and do not appear on any league table being recorded by the early WA British Football Association (WABFA). They were important to their local supporters and provided a lot of entertainment and activity in a district always searching for more community events.
With travel between districts difficult and local communities spending
much of their leisure time together, each area became its own close-knit village, with all the rivalry and competition that entailed.
Jandakot: sporting leaders, 1912-14
Jandakot led the way in sporting enthusiasm: clubs of every description had flourished and faded in the district since its beginnings at the turn of the century and were particularly strong in the three years before the First World War.
Through their many clubs and associations, Jandakot settlers arranged teams for soccer, Australian rules football, cricket, athletics, and cycling, mostly consisting of the same core group of players. The Jandakot Hotel
played a large part in this sporting mania, as leaseholder Jack Visser and licensee Billy Arnold kept up a cricket pitch beside the hotel that also served as a football oval when needed.
First soccer club, Jandakot 1914
English and Scottish settlers were the primary force behind the introduction of soccer to Western Australia, as many of them complained they could not get their heads around the local game. In March 1914 there were enough British settlers in Jandakot to form the first full soccer team in the district: ‘some of the finest players that ever left Pommie Land’, as the newspaper’s Jandakot correspondent noted at the time.
The Jandakot team wrote to the WABFA to announce their inception,
and began soliciting teams from all over Perth and surrounds to make the day-trip out and play them.
As Jandakot was seen as a pleasant rural destination for many metropolitan workers and their families, this resulted in a lot of matches.
Jandakot vs Claremont
Jandakot’s first recorded match was against the Claremont Warders on 9 May 1914, a team made up of staff from the Claremont Asylum where the match was played.
Jandakot fielded a full 11 players: Strong, Treeby, Murphy, Devine, Campbell, A.E, Beesley, P. Beesley, Hendy, Odam, and Miller, and at the last minute Ebert was secured to replace Semple, who was unable to make it. The final result was Claremont 2 - Jandakot 1.
Spearwood follows suit
By June 1914 Spearwood had formed their own team,
and Jandakot was arranging matches with teams from Midland Junction, Garrison Artillery, Fremantle, and the YMCA, as well as forming a friendly rivalry with the St Paul’s Gymnasium club from Beaconsfield.
Spearwood and Jandakot played each other three times over the ensuing months. Jandakot beat Spearwood twice, and it was said by some local comics that ‘Spearwood finds soccer too gentle’. When they played Australian Rules football against Fremantle teams, ran the story, ‘the language was blue and at the finish they kicked whenever they saw a head.’
But in October the two teams played a final match at which players from Spearwood and Coogee combined to form a stronger team and Jandakot could only field nine men. Spearwood won, to much celebration.
Social events and isolation
These 1914 matches were well attended, with supporters of away teams catching charabancs (horse-drawn buses) from Fremantle out into the wilds of Jandakot for a day of sport and picnicking alongside enthusiastic locals.
Not everyone was thrilled with the isolation of the grounds, however: late October 1914 saw a minor fracas emerge when Fremantle F.C. travelled out to Jandakot for a match, only to discover that it was impossible to find anywhere to eat there.
The Fremantle team had to catch a charabanc out to Jandakot before lunchtime, and only after they had played their match did they find that the local hotel was not open for food until after 8.
As a local columnist put it, ‘to go from 8 in the morning till 8 at night with no food, and a hard game of football thrown in, is not good for any man.' Fremantle left, disgruntled, before the ‘patriotic concert and dance’ planned by the Jandakot locals for the benefit of their visitors.
War: the end of senior team soccer
‘Football is pretty dead just now’, wrote the Fremantle Herald’s sports columnist in November of 1914, lamenting the lack of matches and social events amongst Perth teams.
The advent of the First World War was already impacting the men of the district: as early as August, St. Paul’s Gymnasium had to cancel their matches ‘owing to several of the Saints being called up to camp.’
By mid-1915 the thriving Jandakot soccer team, which was said by one columnist at the time to be 'rich in quantity if somewhat weak in quality',
dispersed, along with all the other Perth teams. Only the juniors teams survived, filled with boys too young to enlist.
The juniors teams from both Jandakot and Spearwood carried on through the early war years, playing teams from Fremantle and other areas, but it would be some years before soccer made its way back into the Cockburn district at full strength.